Well Being is the ultimate goal of humans

The ultimate goal of humans is well being, but how successful are they in achieving their goals?   According to Daniel Gilbert’s book “Stumbling on Happiness”, humans are bad at “effective forecasting”, they make poor guesses about what would make them happy; they may find themselves unhappy after winning millions in a lottery, or happy after paralyzed from an accident. Having an open mind, to learn, form and revise beliefs and values in order to come to a logical conclusion is a virtue that Greek philosophers early emphasized.  Plato argues,  “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers”. “Kate Pickett author of The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better credits, University of Washington,   Dr. Bezruchka, who asks his students to write a speech for the President stating why the United States has the best health in the world requiring to back up their research with statistics. The findings of the students are dramatically shocking, because they show that health in the United States is worse than any other developed country; coming very close to poorer countries, including Cuba.  Jorg Schimel author of Development as Happiness: The Subjective Perception of Happiness,  and UNDP’s  Analysis of Poverty, Wealth and Development  supports similar results, about economic developed countries,  like the United States, that doesn’t guarantee a good state of health.  According to UNDP “The higher the level of education, the more likely people are to have increased aspirations, social comparisons and adaptation which lower the level of happiness (Michael Argyle in Kahnemann et al. 1999, p.355). In contrast happier people have better results in school, a greater mental efficiency, higher autonomy and self-confidence (Veenhoven 1984, p.200). Additionally happy employees they work better, they have higher productivity, and they are more cooperative. Self-confidence, bring people closer to happiness and to their capability to control their personal destiny (Veenhoven 1984, p.354). Furthermore, intrinsic goals have a greater influence that extrinsic. Beauty, fame and wealth are not certainly related to happiness (Ed Diener and Mark Eunkook Suh in Kahneman et al. 1999, p.445). Schimel concludes,  “Poverty is not exclusively a state of deficiency and ill-being, wealth is not necessarily a situation of abundance and well-being, and development is hence not automatically a teleological process providing greater well-being.”

To the European, it is a characteristic of the American culture that Americans want to “be happy”.  According to Viktor Frankl, happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue and one must have “a reason to be happy”. “Once the reason is found, one becomes happy automatically.”  Human are looking for a reason to become happy. In study he contacted, about “unemployment neurosis” in young people, he found out, that the patients  who volunteered their free time with an unpaid but meaningful activity, their depression disappeared although their economic situation had not changed and their hunger was the same.  He created the Logo Therapy, which comes from the Greek words Logos, and Therapeia , and their meaning is to find one cure through reason.  He concluded that there are three main avenues one can find the meaning in life. Through work, love and by turning a personal tragedy into a triumph.  The big question though is,  why people should reach to that point, to need a psychotherapy, or logo therapy, or chemotherapy? Why humans should pass their lives with no reason and become sick physical, psychological, or mental?  Is this because of a myth, the pursuit of the current “American Dream”?  Plato argues, “There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.”

The American Dream

So much noise has been created around the “American Dream”; the whole world is dreaming of it!  But what is finally the definition of the American Dream? For John Winthrop was a religious paradise in a “City upon a Hill” while for Martin Luther King, Jr. was a dream of racial equality. The American Dream was based on principles of freedom and equality, inspired from great philosophers, but today is based on materialism. The great principles of liberty, to find one’s goals–the meaning of one’s life-and pursue them have been transformed to compulsion for materialism and collectivism.  Adam’s in the “Epic of America” according to David Kamp’s article, defines it as “the American dream that life should be made richer, and fuller for everyone and opportunity remain open to all”.  The richness as Kamp asserts doesn’t appear just in experience, but in all making material an essential component to the “American Dream”.

The fact is that in the “American Dream” has always included achieving financial success, but over the centuries huge changes happened in acquiring money. According to Matthew Warshauer, while at the routes of the dream hard work and prudence were the ways of success, nowadays Americans are dreaming different ways to fantastic wealth such as winning on game shows and lotteries while some other trying to gain millions through lawsuits. Marketers and the Media have convinced Americans about the new way to wealth. The respectable goal of the American dream, which was based on persistence and work ethics, has been transformed to the delusion of big fortune and easy riches.

Another case is the huge interest of the American audience in the Modern Royal Family, following their dramas and their complex life ruling their subjects. Having great wealth, while they don’t have to rely on it for daily expenses, fulfilling the American dream-wealth without expense. As Michael and Madonna Marsden emphasize, this obsession with the Royal Family is in the context of a continuing soap opera, which actually is completely misleading because the soap opera misses the magical way of the divine of the Royal Family. Another soap opera melodrama the Americans follow is the “Kardashian” phenomenon. As Robin Roberts declared on Good Morning America, “you cannot escape the Kardashian phenomenon” (2011). They managed to create respectively to the British Royal Family, their American suburban family life style, that the majority of Americans today feed their minds and souls. In Plato’s Protagoras, Hippocrates asks Socrates “And what, Socrates, is the food of the soul?” , Socrates “Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul”.  Paralleled with  Socrates idea,  Neither Brillat-Savarin stated that “You Are What You Eat” emphasizing the importance of good food in order to be healthy and fit.

James Truslow Adams in “The Epic of America” calls for a more equitably distributed national wealth and good life “A system that steadily increases the gulf between the ordinary man and the super-rich, that permits the resources of society to be gathered into personal fortunes that afford their owners millions in income a year, with only the chance that here and there a few may be moved to confer some of their surplus upon the public in ways chosen wholly by themselves, is assuredly a wasteful an unjust system. Until countless men and women have decided in their own hearts, through experience and perhaps disillusion, what is a genuinely satisfying life, a “good life” in the old Greek sense, we need look to neither politicians nor captains of industry.”

Open Education

The American Dream, the vision of America’s Founding Fathers, through the years has been altered. Our Founding Fathers gave up their material wealth, for what they believed that worth the mostly; liberty was higher in their interest than material prosperity. Today’s   American Dream, is one to become easy rich and famous; this dream has changed so much! But is it possible in the 21st century this dream to recover? If yes the what is the best possible way?  Plato one of the greatest Ancient Greek philosophers said, “The direction in which education starts, a man will determine his future in life”.

I strongly believe that a swift in education from the current conservative to the progressive “Open Education” is the key for a better future for the United States of America, and the whole world. Open education’s philosophy starts from early childhood, and elementary school and supports: Self Concept, Attitude toward School, Creativity, Independence and Conformity, Curiosity, Adjustment and Anxiety, Locus of Control, and Cooperation.

Open Education can open minds; open minds have the power to bring social changes; therefore this is the best way to recover “The American Dream” for “liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”; the only key to open the door to the journey for “True Wealth” and Thrive.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” -excerpt from the Declaration of Independence.